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North Country Festival of Trees needs more volunteers

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The unofficial start to the holiday season for some locals is just around the corner.

That begins for participants and attendees of the annual North Country Festival of Trees, scheduled Dec. 6 to 8 at the Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St., according to Elizabeth C. Fipps, Samaritan’s vice president of foundation and community services.

“It’s a great community event that offers things throughout the weekend,” she said.

Large and small decorated artificial Christmas trees are displayed throughout the building’s first floor during the three-day event, and a live auction of about 10 trees will take place, followed by a gala event and the Sugar Plum Ball, a parent-child dance. Silent auction bid sheets will be available at other trees, and winners will be announced at 1 p.m. Dec. 8.

To make the start of the holiday season a little more cheerful, Samaritan Foundation and the Watertown Family Y seek more volunteers. The three-day event requires about 100 volunteers to plan the festival, decorate trees to be auctioned off and help run the public viewing of trees, gala and Sugar Plum Ball.

Michelle M. Nickles, Samaritan Foundation’s community relations coordinator, said 54 trees have been sponsored so far, but more would be welcomed. Sponsors can decorate their own trees, pick out their own volunteer group to decorate or have Samaritan Foundation staff help assemble a volunteer team.

“We have volunteers throughout the weekend, like Santa’s helpers,” said Stephen N. Rowell, the Y’s executive director of operations.

Tree decorating is scheduled to occur from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 2 and 3. Decorators choose tree themes. Various community members who are not associated with any sponsors will judge trees based on many decorative categories. Winners will be announced Dec. 6 during the gala.

The theme of the entire festival is “Christmas Through the Eyes of a Child,” which Mrs. Fipps said fits perfectly with the Sugar Plum Ball, where about 700 people, mostly fathers and daughters, dance and dine. Many girls who attend will receive a free necklace from Perrywinkle’s Fine Jewelry.

People can view decorated trees from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 8. A donation will be requested at the door.

People who would like to attend the gala at 6 p.m. Dec. 6 can do so for a fee of $70 per person. Tickets for the Sugar Plum Ball at 6 p.m. Dec. 7 are $70 per parent-child couple, and $35 for each additional child.

Mrs. Fipps said the Samaritan Foundation and Watertown Family Y hope to receive a collective net profit of about $75,000. Both groups will use funds for youth programs and services. For the Watertown Family Y, that includes scholarship funds for memberships and children’s programs.

The Watertown Daily Times, Perrywinkle’s, KeyBank, Coca-Cola, WWNY-TV7 and Fox 28 are sponsors of the overall event.

To volunteer or to reserve tickets to the gala or ball by Dec. 2, call 785-5745, or visit www.samaritanhealth.com.

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